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Still glamorous and still one of the best, the Berlinale is considered one of the most widely attended film festivals in the world, selling around 300,000 tickets and screening up to 816 films in the span of nine days. The films shown at Berlinale are sectioned into categories like “Forum” showing experimental and documentary films, and “Panorama” which focuses on provocative independent films. The festival also boasts residency programs for filmmakers, competitions for the Gold and Silver Bear award and simultaneously corresponds with the European Film Market (EFM) film trade fair.
The city rolled out the red carpet to A-list celebrities and pioneers of independent film, many of which celebrated their world premiers. Some of the highlights from this year included Mein Weg Nach Olympia from Niko Von Glasgow, featured in the Berlinale Special. Von Glasgow sets out to challenge his own fear of sports by following athletes from across the globe as they train for the Paralympics. Glasgow not only gives an in-depth account of the challenges these athletes overcome to be the master of their sport, but also manages to explore the emotional side of testing one’s own limits, including his own.
Also premiered at the Berlinale this year was David M. Rosenthal’s A Single Shot, a harrowing account of the dark consequences resulting from hiding a deep secret. In this film we saw a heartbreaking performance from Sam Rockwell and a completely transformed Jeffrey Wright.
In between press conferences, film screenings and after-hours events, Whitewall also had the unique chance of discovering Canadian film talent right here in Berlin. Whitewall attended a press lunch for Telefilm Canada at the Canadian Embassy, where some of the most celebrated filmmakers played musical chairs with journalists and young aspiring filmmakers alike.
Straight off the plane, our first speed date interview was with François Delisle, whose film La Météore was shown in this years Forum, titled, “Upheaval and Transition.” The film is comprised of dialogue that is not directly associated with the speaker; often we see images of nature, machines, apartment complexes, a prison all corresponding to the voice of a character.
When we asked Delisle why he chose to create a film in this format, he explained that five photographs inspired him. “I had only a relationship between images and words. These five photos realized the first five characters and the first five monologues.” This rather experimental approach taken by Delisle depicts a complex mental image of the characters. “I wanted to get into the psyche of characters instead of just following a story. There is a tension between what is said and what is shown. A tension that keeps us awake as a spectator,” said Delisle.
Our next table brought us to an unexpected study of fruit hunters by director Yung Chang. The Fruit Hunters celebrated its European Premier in the “Culinary Cinema” section of Berlinale this year. When we sat down with Chang, the first question came easy: What exactly is a fruit hunter? We learned that there is a whole world of fruit enthusiasts that dedicate their time to not only finding rare fruits, but also to understanding the history and culture deeply intertwined within the fruits we eat.
Filmed across the globe, Chang followed a selection of people “obsessed with preserving, collecting and eating rare varieties of fruit from around the world.” Chang picked his characters carefully, finding real people like Isabella Dalla Ragione a fruit collector from Italy, and other characters like actor Bill Pullman, who is building a community orchard in the Hollywood hills.
This year the Berlinale managed to enhance the experience of watching a film by making use of the city’s various spaces with the program “Berlinale Goes Kiez.” Theaters located in different neighborhoods across Berlin served as an official venue for the festival, bringing the filmmakers and their crew into the local area.
Yet, after all this time the Berlinale has not forgotten its roots, the key theme in the “Retrospektive” section this year was dubbed “The Weimar Touch: The International Influence of Weimar Cinema after 1933,” paying homage to the incredible technical and artistic contributions that Germany has given to cinema.